Are Blacks Abandoning Obama?

Dick Morris has a penchant for counter-intuitive analysis. And for being wildly wrong.

Dick Morris has a penchant for counter-intuitive analysis. And for being wildly wrong.

When the Hill‘s Twitter account sent out his latest column as “Opinion: Dick Morris: Black voters leave,” I retweeted it pre-pending “Opinion: Dick Morris is an idiot.” But it appears that the story is actually gaining traction in the blogosphere, so let me address it more substantively.

Dick Morris, “Blacks Leave Obama.”

Behind the president’s whining to the Black Caucus, begging them to “quit grumbling,” is a decline in his personal popularity among African-American voters that could portend catastrophe for his fading reelection chances.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, his favorability rating among African-Americans has dropped off a cliff, plunging from 83 percent five months ago to a mere 58 percent today — a drop of 25 points, a bit more than a point per week!

Obama’s approval numbers are down across the board. Whites. Hispanics. Jews. His numbers are the lowest of his presidency, period.

The ABC/WaPo poll seems to be an outlier on the black vote, though. A Gallup poll from a couple weeks ago had Obama’s approval among blacks at 84 percent–which is still tied with his all-time low among that demographic. Worrisome, to be sure, but hardly catastrophic in the larger context. After all, Jews and Hispanics are more likely to vote Republican than blacks.

Nothing is more crucial to the president’s reelection strategy than a super-strong showing among black voters. In the election of 2008, he was able to increase African-American participation from 11 percent of the total vote in 2004 to 14 percent. He carried 98 percent of them. This swing accounted for fully half of his gain over the showing of John Kerry. Now his ability to repeat that performance is in doubt.

Obama got 66,882,230 votes in 2008, winning 53 percent to 46 percent. Kerry got 59,028,109 and lost with 48 percent to Bush’s 51. A slight uptick in the turnout for a demographic that constitutes less than 12 percent of eligible voters doesn’t explain the difference.

The mythology, propagated by pre-election polling and exit polls, was that Obama won by not only turning out blacks but also mobilizing young voters. In reality, the bump in these groups was quite modest–around 2 percent for blacks and 1 percent for the under-25’s. Much more significant: Obama got 43 percent of the white vote, compared to Kerry’s 41. And 53 percent of women compared to Kerry’s 51.

And the emergence of Herman Cain as a serious Republican candidate could not have come at a worse time for the embattled president. Cain’s alternate narrative — self-help, entrepreneurial skill, hard work and self-improvement — stands in stark contrast to the victimization/class warfare argument that the president has adopted.

Frankly, aside from a win in an essentially uncontested straw poll (hint: Alan Keyes won one of those last cycle) nobody’s paying attention to Cain. So, how exactly is he changing the narrative?

Besides which, Cain’s story is undoubtedly impressive: a child of poverty who went on to get degrees in math and computer science, become a respected analyst, and work his way up the corporate ladder to leadership positions at Pillsbury, Burger King, and finally Godfather’s Pizza, where he was CEO. But he’s also a failed politician who lost his bid to become a U.S. Senator from Georgia and is now a curiosity in a presidential race. Obama’s story, meanwhile, is nothing to be ashamed of. Granted, his parents were better educated than Cain’s. But he didn’t exactly grow up in the lap of luxury. He went on to get degrees from Columbia and Harvard, win his first bid to the U.S. Senate, his first bid for the Democratic nomination–against a much more formidable field, and was elected president. And he’s fifteen years younger than Cain.

The remainder of Morris’ column has nothing to do with the thesis at hand, instead continuing with the “class warfare” theme. But, while I happen to reject much of Obama’s messaging on taxes and the wealthy, the polling seems to show that it’s quite popular. Most Americans prefer raising taxes to cuts in government programs. And taxing the rich is, not surprisingly, quite popular given that most Americans aren’t a member of that coveted minority status. So, it would seem reasonable to assume that Obama’s dropping poll numbers have to do with something else. Like, say, a horrendous economy and the toxic atmosphere in Washington.

UPDATE: Given that The Hill is a well respected publication with top-notch editors, I assumed the WaPo poll was an outlier. Steve Benen actually looked it up, though, and found that Morris got the numbers wrong:

If the president’s favorability rating among African Americans really had slipped to 58%, that would be a pretty significant development. But once again, Morris based an entire column on numbers he chose not to read carefully enough.

What the poll actually found is that President Obama enjoys an 86% favorability rating among African Americans — 28 points higher than Morris’ column claimed.

How’d he screw this up? The poll found that 58% of African Americans have a “strongly favorable” view of Obama, but that’s only part of the basis of a favorability rating. Morris apparently noticed one number, brushed past the relevant detail, and published a claim that’s plainly not true.

The point here isn’t that the president can ignore some of his key supporters, and win a second term with his current levels of support. Clearly Obama has a lot of work to do. The point is, The Hill keeps publishing Dick Morris claims that are demonstrably wrong. It’s not a matter of opinion — the columnist is making specific arguments about numbers that don’t exist.

Indeed, Morris said Obama was doing well when his favorability rating among African Americans was 83%. But right now, they’re 86%. By Morris’ reasoning, Obama is doing great with this constituency.

Also note, this wasn’t just some side detail Morris flubbed — just as with the clearly dishonest health care column a few weeks ago, the columnist is building entire print pieces around basic statistics that don’t exist.

Either Dick Morris can’t read or he’s assuming his readers won’t bother to check. Either way, maybe it’s time for The Hill‘s editors to start taking a closer look at his pieces.

This is just embarrassing and, as Benen notes, a pattern with Morris’ columns. Given his background, I can’t believe he doesn’t understand such simple numbers. The only logical conclusion, then, is Morris is intentionally misrepresenting the truth. And a highly respected institution is letting him use their venue to do it.

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FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, Race and Politics, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. The general rule is that if Dick Morris says something, it is most likely wrong.

  2. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Jim Cramer gives him a run for his money, but alas there’s no better example of a contra indicator than Dick Morris.

  3. mattb says:

    Seriously, how does he get work?! A reminder of his predictions from 2008 is pretty startling:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-nickolas/worst-pundit-in-america-d_b_160212.html

    As far as 2008, the gains Obama made were small but significant. But equally important was the number of republican protest non-votes. I have to wonder how much of a factor that will be next year. It seems to me that on this point Romney or Perry both have the potential for the same problem. Then again, ABO — anybody but Obama — might be enough to bring more out for the poor.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    Didn’t read past “Dick Morris”.
    Jan, JTea, Drew, and Eric are all better political analysts than Dick.

  5. Ben Wolf says:

    The real story here is Dick Morris is thinking about black people. I wasn’t aware he even acknowledged their existence.

  6. legion says:

    I think Bill Kristol is pretty high up on the list of ‘always 180-degrees wrong’ too, but yeah – Morris is worthless. And there’s a big difference between blacks being dissatisfied with Obama and blacks voting Republican and/or staying home in 2012…

  7. WR says:

    Didn’t Morris write an entire book about the forthcoming 2008 presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice? Forget about the blue dress — Morris is the most embarassing stain Bill Clinton ever left behind…

  8. Murray says:

    Of course Dick Morris is wrong. He isn’t payed to be right, he’s payed to say/write what his clients want to hear/read.

    And it works. As you mentioned, “the story is actually gaining traction in the blogosphere”. Mission accomplished.

    He’s not an idiot. He’s a mis-informer and a liar.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    I think that Mr. Morris is wrong but not for the reasons catalogued above. As the polls indicate the most that reduced black support for the president is likely to accomplish is to reduce turnout among black voters in 2012. As James has pointed out in his post, the percentage isn’t a great deal. Just a few percentage points.

    In how many districts, how many states is that likely to make a difference? I don’t think many. Maybe not any.

  10. @Murray: He’s also a traitor. Can’t forget that, as it’s a rather key point.

  11. Just Me says:

    I hardly view Morris as the authority on anything and I almost believe with his opinion you can safely assume the opposite is indeed the reality.

  12. bandit says:

    “Opinion: Dick Morris is an idiot.”

    The insightful analysis generally associated with grade schoolers.

  13. ponce says:

    If I had a nickle for every time the fringe right tried to push a minority group x is abandoning the Democrats lie…Obama would be trying to raise my tax rates.

    Quoting Dick Morris’ offal seems like a bottom of the barrel topic for a post, James.

    Don’t you have a PhD in something?

  14. PD Shaw says:

    @Dave Schuler: “In how many districts, how many states is that likely to make a difference? I don’t think many. Maybe not any. ”

    North Carolina, maybe Florida. Both states where Obama won with less than 3% margin, and Blacks account for more than 15% of the demographic.

  15. Sam says:

    Are Blacks Abandoning Obama?

    Not as long as their checks keep rolling in!

  16. Ben says:

    @WR:

    Forget about the blue dress — Morris is the most embarassing stain Bill Clinton ever left behind…

    Now THAT’s a good line.

  17. Ben Wolf says:

    @Sam: There goes Emotional Sam again, making sure facts don’t get in the way of his beliefs.

  18. Wayne says:

    So you think blacks will turn out in as great as number and for Obama at over 98% in 2012?

    IMO the enthusiasm for Obama in many groups is not that high this time and the numbers will show it. The black vote will probably be in low 90’s with the turnout number being slightly higher than normal but not as high as 2008.

    Yes many including the MSM have dismissed Cain. Yet his poll numbers continue to climb. I originally dismiss him as well but am now taking a serious look at him. Many of his positions I like while other candidates have falter. He is not perfect by any means. For example he thinks emergency funding should be approved and the offset should be figure out later. Logical approach but flawed when applied to Congress. Once the spending is approved Congress won’t ever do the offset part.

    One more thing, Cain runs as a person and his supporter support him as a person. He just happens to be a person who is black. But then again according to liberals his supporter s are the racist ones. I suppose if we supported him because he is black, we wouldn’t be.

  19. Ben Wolf says:

    @Wayne: What’s truly laughable in your post is that you think you know anything about black people.

    But then again contempt for the dark-skinned primitives and arrogance born of insecurity is the province of your ilk, isn’t it?

  20. jan says:

    Morris tries hard, however he rarely makes contact with a prediction that bears any fruit. I also don’t understand how he maintains himself on the pundit stage for as long or as well as he has managed to do.

    As for the black vote, I don’t think Obama will have any trouble gathering most of it up in the 2012 election. Mind you, I don’t think the democratic party has really earned such a devoted, massive, almost unquestioning following. But, AA’s seem to be a constituency the dems have been able to count on for decades, with little break in that pattern to be seen on the near horizon.

  21. jan says:

    @Wayne:

    One more thing, Cain runs as a person and his supporter support him as a person. He just happens to be a person who is black.

    Cain made a reference about that in one of his speeches, saying it wasn’t his black skin he was encouraging people to vote for, but rather his ideas. Taking his words literally, Cain was in fact representing the highest meaning of MLK’s famous phrase about hoping for the day people would be judged by “the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.”

    @Ben Wolf:

    But then again contempt for the dark-skinned primitives and arrogance born of insecurity is the province of your ilk, isn’t it?

    How you could have come up with such a harsh response for what was said in Wayne’s post is truly a mystery.

  22. john personna says:

    Your complaint about Morris reminds me of this, on another topic:

    We are not, in other words, dealing with a work of scholarship. However, in the blogsphere, the quality or even intention of an argument often doesn’t matter. I have to assume Murphy was aware that all he had to do was to write something—anything really—and claim it rebutted me, and the piece would be instantly snatched up by a right-wing echo chamber, mirrored on half a dozen websites and that followers of those websites would then dutifully begin appearing across the web declaring to everyone willing to listen that my work had been rebutted. The fact that I instantly appeared on the Von Mises web page to offer a detailed response, and that Murphy has since effectively conceded, writing an elaborate climb-down saying that he had no intention to cast doubt on my argument as a whole at all, only to note that I had not definitively disproved Menger’s, has done nothing to change this. Indeed, on both US and UK Amazon, I have seen fans of Austrian economics appear to inform potential buyers that I am an economic ignoramus whose work has been entirely discredited.

    It’s true, right? In the attention economy of the web, you CAN propel something that sounds good to a group, even without underlying merit.

  23. MM says:

    I bet Sam is baffled by the fact that minorities don’t vote GOP as often as he would like.

  24. ponce says:

    Mind you, I don’t think the democratic party has really earned such a devoted, massive, almost unquestioning following.

    Here’s a clue for you, Jan:

    A powerful Republican leader in the Alabama Senate apologized Tuesday for referring to blacks as “aborigines.”

    http://www.chron.com/news/article/Alabama-senator-apologizes-for-racial-remark-2191488.php

  25. Tlaloc says:

    Seriously, how does he get work?!

    He drives traffic to his host. Being badly wrong can be just as good as being consistently right. Arguing counter intuitive themes only helps get people to click with “wth” reactions.

  26. Tlaloc says:

    Yes many including the MSM have dismissed Cain. Yet his poll numbers continue to climb.

    has he even broken double digits yet? Cain admits he was about to quit when the perry implosion made him an attractive protest vote. Intrade gives him 2.9% chance of being the GOP nominee.

  27. You’re all right- Dick Morris is wrong- Obama is more popular than ever and his poll numbers have been increasing, rising 25 points! He is more popular than ever, especially with blacks, which is exactly what Gallop found! How did Dick Morris misread the data so bad- when someone’s favorability drops from 83 to 58, that means he is more popular, not less! And he is so wrong- winning the black vote is irrelevent to Obama and not even slightly important- he knows he can lose the entire black vote and still cakewalk to re-election! Morris is a joke! Down is up, right is wrong, and the bizarro world had me at hello.

  28. Neil Hudelson says:

    Did anyone else just hear that? I think superdestroyer just had an orgasm.

  29. jan says:

    @ponce:

    A powerful Republican leader in the Alabama Senate apologized Tuesday for referring to blacks as “aborigines.”

    There are examples of ignorance in every sector of life, ponce. The one you excerpted is one of them.

    However, in the bigger picture I don’t think AA’s have been helped as much as pandered to by the dems. Even some of Maxine Water’s comments, of late, are registering discontent with this administration’s addressing joblessness in the AA community. And, I think even Obama’s speech, in front of the Black Caucus, was off-base, when he chastized them to get out of their slippers, stop complaining, and put on their marching shoes…. I dare say had a republican uttered these same words it would have been labeled as being ‘racist’ and ‘offensive’ by the MSM and the liberal left.

  30. Moosebreath says:

    The mystery explained. Dick Morris can’t read poll results, thinks “favorable” only includes “strongly favorable”, not “somewhat favorable”. The share of “strongly favorable” results did decrease, largely into “somewhat favorable”

    Poll results from the horse’s mouth are here

  31. Nikki says:

    @Wayne: Cain is the potential candidate who just announced that there will be neither celebrity dinners or inaugural balls in his White House. And you want to take him seriously? Why?

  32. jan says:

    @A Conservative Teacher:

    How did Dick Morris misread the data so bad- when someone’s favorability drops from 83 to 58, that means he is more popular, not less!

    Yes, Obama’s numbers have dropped among AA’s. But, the looming question is how reflective is this drop in measuring whether this racial constituency will vote for him or not in 2012? Will their disappointment in his actions override their pride in him being the first black president?

    That, IMO, is why people are not taking these current numbers too seriously, yet.

  33. john personna says:

    @A Conservative Teacher: @jan:

    The absurdity is that they are going to go vote for someone else.

    Oh yeah, Perry is their new man!

  34. Nikki says:

    @jan: Yup. And that’s because we recognize what and who is on the OTHER side (see comments above by Sam and Wayne).

  35. john personna says:

    (He wrote a “loss of voters” piece based on a “declining approval” datum. One may lead to the other, but to really cinch it you really have to name who they’d move to, in their voting.)

  36. Nikki says:

    I dare say had a republican uttered these same words it would have been labeled as being ‘racist’ and ‘offensive’ by the MSM and the liberal left.

    Poor jan. I’m really sorry, but there are things that blacks and minorities can say and whites can’t simply because what was said can be “misconstrued” as racist. It’s a sad fact of life. There is a reasonable solution, however; don’t say those things. And please stop envying those of us who CAN say them.

  37. Pug says:

    @A Conservative Teacher:

    when someone’s favorability drops from 83 to 58, that means he is more popular, not less!

    Nice attempt at sarcasm there, but there is one little problem with your statement. You must have missed the sentence that said:

    What the poll actually found is that President Obama enjoys an 86% favorability rating among African Americans — ?

    Morris flat got the number wrong. But you can pretend he didn’t. That’s OK.

  38. Hey Norm says:

    @ Jan…
    Here’s something to think about…serving a constituency is not pandering…it’s called governing…a task which the so-called republicans are neither interested in nor capable of based upon their actions of the past decade.
    The fact that you confuse governing and pandering probably explains why your party cult is so homogenous.

  39. Wayne says:

    @Tlaloc
    Google “Cain gains in polls”
    You will find many articles and polls with Cain in double digit. You will even find a recent Zogby poll that has him up double digits among likely Republican voters over even Romney or Perry.

    @Nikki Re “Cain is the potential candidate who just announced that there will be neither celebrity dinners or inaugural balls in his White House. And you want to take him seriously?”

    Yeah people certainly won’t vote for someone who won’t have celebrity dinners or inaugural balls in his White House. How awful to treat celebrities like that? (Sarcasm off)

    @Ben Wolf
    Wow! “Insert med joke here”.

  40. An Interested Party says:

    The insightful analysis generally associated with grade schoolers.

    This from someone who generally writes the same kind of “analysis” when he/she comments on this site…

    How did Dick Morris misread the data so bad- when someone’s favorability drops from 83 to 58, that means he is more popular, not less!

    And you claim to be a teacher? Surely you can read, right? The favorability drop that Morris wrote about was an error…

    Meanwhile, the only thing more hilarious than the joke that is Dick Morris is the idea that Herman Cain will get anywhere near winning the GOP nomination…keep hope alive…

  41. Nikki says:

    @Wayne:

    Yeah people certainly won’t vote for someone who won’t have celebrity dinners or inaugural balls in his White House. How awful to treat celebrities like that?

    Wayne, since all world leaders host state dinners and they invite celebrities (especially celebrities from the country of the leader for whom the dinner is being held), Cain is obviously pandering, using the language of a huckster (i.e., Sarah Palin, most of the GOP candidates, etc.). That you would claim to consider him a contender says a lot about you.

  42. Tlaloc says:

    @Tlaloc
    Google “Cain gains in polls”
    You will find many articles and polls with Cain in double digit. You will even find a recent Zogby poll that has him up double digits among likely Republican voters over even Romney or Perry.

    That was an online poll, even redstate mocked it. However since then there has been an actual poll with Cain in double digits (and third place i believe. Good for him. I strongly doubt it will last though.

  43. superdestroyer says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    The idea that blacks will not vote for Obama is laughable. In November 2012, President Obama will get 95% of the black vote just like he did in 2008. Blacks are automatic Democratic party voters and do not change no matter how bad the economy gets nor how corrupt the DEmocrats are.

    Just look at cities like Detroit and Baltimore to see how blacks vote.

  44. An Interested Party says:

    Blacks are automatic Democratic party voters and do not change…

    I’m just curious…why do you think that is the case?

  45. superdestroyer says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Look at the District of Columbia. No matter how bad Marion Barry was as a mayor, no matter how bad the schools are, no matter how bad the crime rate is, no matter how corrupt the government is, blacks automatically vote for the Democrats. The idea that blacks are conservative, care about social issues, or even care if the government is functional is laughable.

    Look at the members of the Black Congresssional Caucus. All of them are from safe Democratic districts where the Republicans are totally irrelevant. Just because black women attend church more than any other demographic is the U.S. is meaningless as far as politics is concerned.

    Blacks are the most liberal, most loyal Democraitc Party supporters in the U.S.

  46. IHOPEHEFAILS says:

    And you sir are . . . . who??? Doug Mataconis??? No “expert” that I’m familiar with. Here’s MY expert opinion: Obama is an idiot, a bald-faced LIAR, and a RACIST. In case you need “proof” just remember his budget proposal submitted to the Senate a few months back . . . voted down 97 to 0; his many and repeated lies about numerous things (stimulus earmark free, close Gitmo; 5 days on Ebay for citizenry to review bills, etc, etc ad nauseum); and his stupid commenting on the black Harvard professor arrested by Cambridge Police . . . QUOTE: I don’t have all the facts, but . . . the Cambridge Police acted stupidly.” He had no business whatsoever commenting on the incident, but in so doing, he as much as said, I’m taking the black guy’s side, and without knowing all the facts, I’m concluding that that honky cop is a racist. So obviously, I too am a racist.

  47. IHOPEHEFAILS says:

    @A Conservative Teacher: YOU are the joke!!! And you are supposed to be a teacher?? God help the students under your tutelage. And calling yourself a “conservative” just doesn’t wash.